Is coconut water good for you?
On a covered dock in the hot Philippine Islands with the intense light of the sun reflecting on clear water, I held a coconut while sipping it’s refreshing water. It tasted so good; it felt like my body was just soaking in all the nutrients. Was it nutritious? Is coconut water good for you?
Before we answer that, let’s take a closer look at coconut water. It is essentially the juice inside a young, green coconut. The water is obtained by opening a tender, green, healthy, and undamaged coconut. Inside, it’s clear liquid is sweet and sterile and made up of sugars, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes, amino acids, cytokine, and photo-hormones. When they are five to seven months old, they are gathered for the purpose of getting that wonderful water.
Some of the benefits of coconut water include:
Contains nutrients - Contains electrolytes (potassium, and sodium)
Boosts hydration - These nutrients when combined together can help your body recover from loss of mineral-rich fluids during intense, extensive exercise
Helps with digestion - It has a high concentration of fiber which helps in the prevention of indigestion and reduces the occurrence of acid reflux
May help ward of stroke and early death in women - per 2014 study in the journal, Stroke, which concluded, “High potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of all stroke and ischemic stroke, as well as all-cause mortality in older women, particularly those who are not hypertensive.” (Note this study speaks to benefits of potassium specifically, not coconut water nor bananas for that matter which also contain potassium)
Not all coconut water is created equal so be mindful when purchasing. Some companies make some pretty big claims on the contents of their coconut water. Heck, let’s use some Latin words here, caveat emptor.
Here are a few things to be aware of:
Taking water from mature coconuts - above I wrote that coconut water comes from young, green coconuts, which they should. The one I drank from was such a coconut. As coconuts mature, the nutrients in the water begin to seep into the meat of the coconut, leaving the water less nutritious. The meat of it would be good but the water also looses its flavor. These mature coconuts may be used by some companies looking to cut costs
Adding “natural flavors” or sweeteners - a true, young coconut can stand on its own; it wouldn't need to be sweetened. What would? The mature coconuts
Pasteurizing with heat - much of the coconut water found in stores is heat pasteurized (cooked at very high temperature to kill bacteria and extend shelf life). This process destroys the taste and nutrients in the water. If it’s from concentrate then it has been heated again so not good. There is a way to keep the nutrients while killing the bacteria - HPP (high pressure processing)
After researching this I was disappointed to discover that the brand I drink on occasion, Vita Coco, while not made from concentrate, is heat pasteurized. Nuts! Or in this case, coconuts! One brand that I will be seeking out is Harmless Harvest which I should be able to find at WholeFoods in the refrigerator section. They use young coconuts and HPP.
Could you find the nutrients in coconut water in fruits and vegetables as well? Absolutely and probably at a more palatable price point. I enjoy on occasion the taste of coconut water. Especially after an intense workout (one that lasts longer than 60 minutes with little to no rest during that time) I find it not only refreshing but helps me hydrate. I don’t drink sports or energy drinks (much higher sugar content and added chemicals). But once in a while I will kick back with the nutritious and refreshing coconut water. Especially when on an island.
To your journey,
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